Malaysia GE13: Najib forms pact with Hindraf to cement Indian support
KUALA LUMPUR - Prime Minister Najib Razak has formed a pact with the Indian rights movement Hindraf after he signed a commitment to their demands to uplift the community, in a bid to cement the Indian support.
In return, Hindraf threw its support behind the Barisan Nasional (BN) for the May 5 polls.
Mr Najib signed a five-year blueprint in which he promised to address the issue that Indians who do not have identity cards, to look into the plight of former estate workers, and increase educational and job opportunities for the community.
Hindraf had a rocky relationship with the government in the past, with its leaders detained under the Internal Security Act during former premier Abdullah Badawi's administration in 2008, following a government ban and police crackdown on the group.
The ban was lifted recently.
"Today marks a new relationship between BN and Hindraf," said its president P. Waythamoorthy. "We have decided to partner with BN for the sake of the future of the Indians in the country."
His decision, however, was slammed by his brother, Uthayakumar, who accused him of "hijacking" the Hindraf movement, reported Malaysiakini news website.
Mr Uthayakumar, who insists he is the de facto leader of Hindraf, said the movement's stance has not changed since its formation in 2006.
"The Hindraf political directions remain the same: Do not vote for Umno and BN, voting for Pakatan Rakyat is up to the individual," he said.
Indians comprise about seven per cent of the country's 28-million population but its voters are scattered in 63 parliamentary seats across the peninsular Malaysia. They form a significant bloc in up to 10 seats.
The majority of Indian votes had swung to the opposition in the 2008 general elections, due to increasing frustration with the government over fewer job and education opportunities for the community.
But Mr Najib is seen to have offered an olive branch to the group by being willing to engage and meet with its leaders recently.
With his alliance with the Hindraf, political analysts said it could bring some Indian votes back to the BN although it is unclear if Hindraf still wields as much influence as it had in 2008.